Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Peace poster contest inspires young artists to celebrate connections January 6, 2022

Maelynn Thoele, award-winning artist. Photo source: Arlington Lions Club Facebook page.

IMAGINE A WORLD OF PEACE. Of minimal division. Of connecting and compassion and care. That seems elusive right now. But one can hope, aim toward, embrace such goals.

The annual Lions International Peace Poster Contest encourages me. Young people from all around the world create art themed to peace. Therein lies the possibility that perhaps some day we can achieve peace and unity. If our young people have anything to say about it.

I invite you to scroll through the grand prize winning art in past peace poster contests by clicking here. Yue Zheng, 13, from China took the top prize in 2020-2021 when “Peace Through Service” themed the competition. During the first “Peace Will Help Us Grow” contest in 1988-1989, Mustapha El Tawokji, 13, of Lebanon earned the grand prize. The award-winning art created by 11-13-year-olds from places like South Africa, Peru, Brazil, Thailand, multiple U.S. states and elsewhere since 1988 inspires.

This year young people were tasked with creating art centered on “We Are All Connected.” The Lions website defines that:

While overcoming new challenges brought on by an unprecedented global pandemic, we’re celebrating the things that keep us connected—to each other, to our communities, all together around the world. This year, we invite young people to envision, explore and visually express these connections.

And that these young artists did. Maelynn Thoele, 13, a seventh grader at Sibley East in Arlington, Minnesota, won multiple district competitions to advance to the international level with her peace poster. Her puzzle art fits visually well with the “We Are All Connected” theme. Just like puzzle pieces fit together to create a scene, peoples and countries connect to create our world.

The details in Maelynn’s art convey peace in the backdrop peace symbol, a dove and more. Her art includes the flags of many countries and hands of multiple skin tones assembling that puzzle. Together. Connected.

A vintage peace tray I purchased in 2015 at an antique shop. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2015)

NOTE: I’d love to see the award-winning art of these students featured on t-shirts, posters, cards, etc. and, in Maelynn’s case, on a puzzle. Thoughts?

A Peace Poster Tabletop Exhibit is available (and loaned at no cost) to Lions groups in the U.S. The peace exhibit has been displayed, for example, in libraries, community events and Lions conventions. Call (630) 203-3812. I’d love to see that come to my Minnesota community.

Also, the Lions sponsor an International Peace Essay Contest for young people. I appreciate that opportunity for creatives who express themselves via words.

Please click here to read an earlier post I wrote about a 12-year-old girl from Rochester, who won the peace poster contest in her Minnesota middle school. Winners of the 2021-2022 peace poster contest will be notified by February 1.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Photo source: Arlington Lions Club Facebook page. That club sponsored Maelynn.

 

“Dear Santa” letters from Minnesota first graders December 29, 2021

Santa, done delivering gifts at a family Christmas. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo December 2015)

DAYS BEFORE CHRISTMAS, a small town Minnesota weekly newspaper published 32 letters—31 addressed to Santa and one to Elsa. The letters written by Sibley East first graders, as you would expect, are honest. Or at least honest enough to convince Santa of good behavior.

As I read through the letters to Santa published in The Gaylord Hub (where I worked as a reporter from 1978-1980), I laughed. And I nearly cried. Read on and you’ll understand as I share highlights pulled from the kids’ writings.

Many first graders assured Santa of their helpfulness and kindness among family and friends. But young Oskar hesitated. “I have been kind of good this year,” he penned before asking for Legos and books with one Lego figurine.

WISH LIST BASICS

What kids wanted for Christmas varied widely. Aleah asked for markers, glue, coloring books, crayons and Skye from Paw Patrol. Her request for glue and for crayons caused me to pause, considering she needed/wanted something so basic. I hope sweet Aleah got those gifts. Other kids asked for items like shoes, clothes, a bunk bed, a garbage can for their bedroom. Necessities.

But perhaps the most touching was Elsa’s request: “Please can you give me a picture of me for my family.”

WISHFUL THINKING

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Alex requested items that could bankrupt Santa. He not only wanted a remote control car, a gun, a kids’ motorcycle and an iPhone 11, but he also asked for $1 million. Alright then. Alex wants a sister, too. Not sure how Santa handled that.

A UNIQUE REQUEST

Perhaps the most unusual gift desired came from Angie, who assured Santa she’s been working hard in school and helping her mom with dishes. The first grader asked for a skeleton so she can study the human body. Impressed? I am. I expect Angie will accomplish anything she sets her mind to, maybe even becoming a medical professional.

Other gift lists included Nintendo games, a skateboard, not just some but “a lot of” Nerf guns, a remote control semi, a LOL doll, Pokemon cards…and the usual horse and puppy. And for one boy, dogs. Plural, not singular. He promised to share the dogs with his friends.

QUESTIONS FOR SANTA

These kids also had lots of questions for Santa. About the reindeer (What do they eat? How do they fly?). About the elves (How are they?). About Mrs. Claus (How old is she?). About the North Pole (How cold and snowy is it there?).

Santa also faced questions about himself. “Do you like cookies or not?” Cameron asked, getting right to the point. Oskar was more specific. “Do you like cookies that are bought or decorated cookies?”

Angie, who wanted the skeleton to study the human body (I sure hope she got it) wondered why Santa wears a red hat instead of a blue hat. Good question. Like I said, I expect this inquisitive first grader will achieve whatever goals she sets.

REALLY PERSONAL QUESTIONS FOR SANTA

Then two first grade boys got even more personal. “Do you have any kids?” Charlie asked Santa. Good question.

And then there’s Jaxson, concerned about Santa’s mental health. “Are you happy? Yes?” I love how this little boy’s letter opened with that question before he went on to ask for one thing, a Nintendo Switch. He even thanked Santa. We could all learn from Jaxson. About compassion and care for others. From the pencils of first graders…

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© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Source: December 23, 2021 edition of The Gaylord Hub